The more I learn about Polly Billington, one of the hopefuls to be the next Labour MP for South Thanet, the more I and many others think that she would be an extremely unwise choice of candidate . In this article I explain why, but let’s begin with a quick recap.
In my last article I revealed how Polly damaged her credibility as a green activist by taking, in 2021, a grant of almost half a million pounds from the charitable IKEA Foundation to fund a company called UK100 Cities Network Limited (UK100)
Established in 2016, the company describes itself as a cross-party local government network which aims “to support a local-led rapid transition to Net Zero and Clean Air”.
It is owned by Polly who is listed on the Companies House website as having significant control over the organisation, having more than 75% of the voting rights and the power to appoint and remove directors.
As a high profile environmentalist , running a well-known environmental networking company, Polly would most likely have known when she took the cash that IKEA has been widely criticised for what many believe to be its unsustainable timber procurement practices which are claimed to have inflicted huge damage upon our forests.
It would be surprising if she didn’t also know that the IKEA has been been described by many commentators as a “greenwashing” machine which aims to make the flatpack furniture manufacturer appear to the public as being more environmentally friendly than it actually is.
Yet despite the risk of damaging her environmental credentials and those of UK100, Polly was prepared to jump into a king sized Balestrand bed with IKEA, who’s business model would appear to be the antithesis of everything she and UK100 claim to believe in.
Those I have spoken to have told me that Polly took these risks, in order secure the future of UK100 which , without the injection of IKEA’s half a million pounds, would likely have gone under in 2021/2022.
As the company’s owner, its Chief Executive, and its spokesperson, Polly got a seat at the top table with the UKs environmental policy making elite, which includes extremely powerful and influential politicians. She was able to use this opportunity not only to advance her company’s fortunes but also to promote herself and her personal political ambition with those who could help her.
This is why, I have been told, that the reputation damaging link with IKEA was thought to be a risk well worth because it sustained the platform provided by Polly's company to push forward her plan to become an MP.
However this story doesn’t end with the comprising of Polly’s and UK100’s green credentials in order for her to achive the ambtion of a seat at Westminster -it goes much further, deeper and wider than this.
Let’s begin with workers’ rights. The internet is awash with many stories about how IKEA is anti-trade union and tries to prevent its global workforce of several hundred thousand from organising together to improve pay and conditions.
Claims about spying on and unfairly sacking trade unionist are replete, as are allegations about low pay, operating unsafe workplaces, and the aalleged covering up sexual harassment. It seems likely that IKEA is far from being a model employer, particularly in some of the poorer counties in which it operates.
It would be reasonable to expect that the Chief Executive of a high profile and, supposedly, highly ethical company, would carry out due diligence to find out if a relationship with IKEA might tarnish you and your company’s reputation. Ten minutes on Google would have told Polly all she needed to know. But it would appears that she didn’t check, or if she did, she ignored IKEAs regularly reported and shameful record on workers’ rights.
But on her website “Polly for South Thanet” she brazenly claims to be “protecting working people’s rights” and to have “ stood in solidarity with striking workers on picket lines”. Add to this Labour’s recent adoption A new deal for working people a policy which promises stronger worker and trade union rights if the party wins the General Election, Polly’s taking of cash from union bashing IKEA's chatribale foundation is utterly astonishing.
What Polly says and what she does about workers’ and trade union rights appear to be two different things. Her public statements and her private cash grabbing reveal a worrying lack of principle and also serve to conflict with and to undermine Labour’s post-election promise to legislate for better worker and trade union rights. Most disturbing of all, it also shows Polly to be worryingly out of touch with the ethos of the Labour Party, a party which was founded and is still funded by the trade unions for the advancement of the interests of working people.
Whilst I would expect a wannabe Tory MP to take cash from a wealthy , anti-union, multinational corporation, to progress their political career, I would never, until now, have expected a wannabe Labour MP to have stooped so low to advance their personal ambition.
Not that long ago Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves MP called on the Government to close tax loopholes which permit large multi- national companies such as Amazon, Apple and Goggle to avoid paying £billions in taxes every year. Most of us would agree with Rachel Reeves. We all know and understand that tax avoidance costs people dearly in terms of underfunded, poor, and inadequate public services
Also on the list of major international tax evaders is IKEA which it is widely claimed to have avoided paying tens of billions in taxes worldwide. In fact, the EU is currently undertaking a major investigation into IKEA’s tax avoidance and its highly likely that the company will be ordered to pay eye watering penalties in the not too distant future.
As a Labour politician who is reported to have said, several years begore her IKEA deal, that the NHS could be better financed by introducing ”a tax on the super-rich and tobacco firms and a crackdown on tax avoidance” it beggars belief that she then decided to take half a million pounds from one of the biggest tax dodgers on the planet.
Polly Billington is extremely ambitious and she has been trying for a long time to become a Labour MP. There is nothing wrong with ambition or trying to become an MP. In fact being an MP is perhaps one of the greatest democratic honours to be bestowed upon someone.
But what is wrong in my book, and the books of many others, is when personal ambition is placed above the principles, morals and ethics, which are expected of those who aspire to be elected to represent us in the highest democratic office – a member of parliament.
That’s why I, and many Labour Party members I know, are now beginning to believe that Polly might not be the best choice as South Thanet Labour’s next Parliamentary Candidate.
I’m not alone in thinking, that the scandal has identified Polly as someone who poses as an environmental champion , a campaigner for workers' rights, and an advocate for fairer taxes who then hypocritically takes cash from an international corporation which opposes these values.
All of this to fund the company she owns which apart from its zero-carbon networking work, also plays an indespensible role in providing Polly with an influential platform from which to achieve her parliamentary ambition.
Not that I have any say on the matter, but I am sure that many Labour Party members will now begin to advise Polly to carefully examine her conscience and ask herself whether the #IKEAgate scandal may have damaged her personal credibility, and that of the Labour Party, to such an extent that she should consider stepping down as a potential Parliamentary candidate for South Thanet.
If you have any Polly info, or anything else of interest, please contact me on 07866588766 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Confidentiality assured. I never ever reveal my sources.